When God Doesn’t Meet Your Expectations

meetexpectationsThe burger you got doesn’t look like the one pictured on the menu…

The hotel you’re staying in sure looked nicer on the website than in person…

I still can’t slam dunk even when I’m wearing my new Jordans…

Unmet expectations. They happen all the time. And while it’s somewhat expected at a restaurant, a hotel, or with a clothing item, what happens when God doesn’t meet your expectations?

My wife was in a bad car accident a few months ago. It messed her back up and it’s changed our lives as a family. She’s been unable to do much with our family, travel long distances, hold our son, and even clean the house. For months, we’ve prayed for healing. And for months she’s visited the chiropractor (with a couple ER visits sprinkled in there for good measure).

Then Tuesday happened.

The Awaken staff hosts 1 of the 10 Unruined Prayer Groups that meet during the week. It began pretty normal, but at the end, Jenn broke down in tears as she prayed for healing. We anointed her with oil, and prayed. And we kept praying. We cried out to God and we cried. For over an hour, we begged God to heal my wife.

I’ve never seen someone be healed. I’ve seen the fanatical preachers on TV telling people to get out of their wheelchairs, and pushing them over into the waiting hands of the people catchers (I don’t know what else you call those guys who catch people that the preacher pushes).

It was the perfect setup. In tears, and with humble confidence and faith in the Healer, we were surrounded by 20 or so people who love us, and were asking God to intervene. As I cried and prayed, I couldn’t wait for God to heal my wife. I’d get my wife back, my kids would have mom back, and best of all, we’d have a story to tell to our chiropractor and his staff, and our church! If Jesus can raise the dead and make the blind see, I knew He could straighten by wife’s back and align her hips so she can walk without pain.

But He didn’t.

And He still hasn’t.

Two days later, she’s limping, sore, and still heading in for an MRI.

What happened? It seemed perfect. Tears. Faith. Love. Prayer. I don’t say this lightly, but it was one of the most powerful times of corporate prayer I’ve ever been part of. But the outcome was not what I expected.

Have you been there?

He didn’t fix your marriage.

He didn’t take away your lust problem.

He didn’t heal your disease.

He didn’t prevent that miscarriage.

I don’t have answers for you, but I do have a couple reminders.

You’re in good company.

Speaking of John the Baptizer, Jesus said, “Among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John…” That’s quite the statement coming from Jesus Himself! John must have done something pretty incredible for Jesus to make a statement like that, right?

Not quite.

John was in prison. As John took inventory of his situation, he realized that this Messiah wasn’t measuring up to his expectations. So he sent a couple of his disciples to ask Jesus if He really was the Christ or if they should be looking for someone else.

Jesus reminded John that He had raised the dead, made the blind see, and preached the Gospel. That’s quite the resume! But there were a couple things that didn’t make it onto Jesus’ resume: breaking John out of prison or keeping him from being beheaded. Both of those happened.

If you’ve questioned God or felt like He didn’t measure up, you’re in good company. Things didn’t go John’s way either, and he couldn’t understand why.

God isn’t offended or intimidated by your doubts.

God pursues us at our worst. Romans 5 says Jesus was sent to die for us while we were still sinners. God is constantly inviting us into a relationship with Him, meanwhile, He is fully aware of our limitations, sin, questions, and insecurities. Those don’t stop Him, in fact, they make Him intervene all the more.

Jesus said that He didn’t come for those who were well, but for the sick. He invites the weary and heavy-laden to come to Him. He says we should cast our cares on Him. Why? Because He cares for us!

Just like you should bring your sin to God, you should also bring your questions and your doubts. He can handle them.

Choose to rest and trust in His sovereignty.

Isaiah 55 reminds us God’s ways are higher than ours. God is infinite and we are finite, so He does things in ways and at times our flawed, sinful, selfish minds can’t comprehend. Sometimes we have the benefit of being able to look back and see how God worked through circumstances we didn’t understand at the time. Other times, we have to choose to trust even when it seems illogical.

Paul begged for God to take away his “thorn in the flesh.” God flat out told Paul no. How did Paul handle that answer? It didn’t shake his faith. It strengthened his faith and changed his perspective. He learned to rejoice in his weaknesses because those were the areas where God’s grace shined the brightest.

Jesus said that we should pray and not lose heart. When God answers prayer like we ask and even when He doesn’t, choose to rest and trust. He’s got you!

You Can.

YOUCANDo you remember when you were growing up and you asked your first grade teacher, “Can I go to the bathroom?”

You remember her snarky reply, right?

“I don’t know, can you go to the bathroom?”

As if your ability to use the restroom were in question.

Your first-grader brain thought, “My ability isn’t the question. I am wanting your permission!” Unfortunately, all that came out was, “I mean, may I use the restroom?,” giving your teacher the satisfaction of having corrected your grammar with her sarcasm.

Minus the snarky teachers and sarcasm, Luke 5 tells a story where a similar scenario plays out.

While he (Jesus) was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. – Luke 5:12-13 ESV

Jesus’ ability wasn’t in question. His permission was.

When it comes to God working in and through our lives, I think about it in two ways:

1) God’s ability isn’t in question. His permission (His will) is.

The leper in Luke 5 was making a request of Jesus in the same way Jesus made a request of the Father right before His betrayal, arrest and execution. Jesus prayed, “If it’s Your will…”

Jesus and the leper understood that God’s ability isn’t in question. His will is.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that the leper probably had greater faith than many of us (myself included)! Judging by the confidence with which he spoke to Jesus, I think he had the audacity to believe that if Jesus possessed the ability to heal him and chose not to, there was a reason behind it that the leper would choose to trust.

I want that kind of faith!

2) God’s ability isn’t in question. My permission is.

You are not stronger than God, but to a degree, you can hold Him back. Think about the times where Jesus went through a town and “marveled at their unbelief.”

Matthew 13:58 says, “He did not do many great works there, because of their unbelief.”

Another way to look at it is that their resistance and lack of faith didn’t make Jesus unable to perform the miracle, but it prevented Him from doing so. He not only had the ability to do miracles, but He also had the desire. Their hard hearts pushed Him out.

So which is it for you?

Are you asking God for permission, believing in His supernatural power?

OR

Is He asking you for permission, wanting to work in your life, but being pushed away by a hard or unbelieving heart?

When you pray, tell God, “YOU CAN,” effectively reminding yourself of His ability, and granting Him permission to do the supernatural in your life.

 

Saved in the nick of time

3 weeks ago at Awaken, God had some pretty sweet moves up His sleeve.

The text was Joshua 3 and the message was clear: if you want to see God do amazing things, you have to step out of your tent and face the raging river ahead, trusting God to get you across. We had a packed house that morning and at the end, I gave an invitation for people to come forward to give their life to Jesus.

It’s always a bit easier to walk forward when you’re not the only one, but Alan wasn’t scared. It was his first time at Awaken. He saw our sign one day as he was driving by and figured he’d give it a shot. With tears in his eyes, he walked forward at the end of my message, and I prayed with him to receive Jesus!

Then something out of the ordinary happened…

Instead of walking back to his seat, he turned to me and asked me to pray for his grandfather, Amador, who was suffering in a hospital in California. I seized the moment, and as many people extended their hands toward him, we prayed as a church for physical and spiritual healing for Alan’s grandfather, 3,000 miles away in California.

Immediately after service, a man from Awaken who just moved here from California got in touch with his pastor back home who was able to go visit Alan’s grandfather. We were thrilled to find out that he visited him at home because he had been released from the hospital! That’s not even the best part though. When he showed up to the man’s home, he was able to share the Gospel with him and Amador accepted Jesus! The pastor was also able to read Scripture with the whole family and share the Gospel with them.

Unfortunately, I received the sad news on Tuesday that Amador had taken a turn for the worst once he went home and he didn’t make it. He passed away in his home in Calfornia, surrounded by his family. Although we mourn for the family, we rejoice now for Amador who is better off than he ever has been – hanging out with Jesus! Alan flew out there yesterday to be with the family…and God kept working. As Alan talked with the family and the pastor was there to pray with them, Alan’s mother also gave her life to the Lord!

The pastor’s church was made available for the funeral, so join with me in praying that God saves the rest of the family as they feel and see the tangible love of Christ.

Amador is a great reminder of how fragile life is and how important it is to make a decision to serve Christ today. Had Amador waited 2 weeks, it would have been too late. However, God used Alan’s bold steps of faith, our prayers, and the faithfulness of a pastor to reach out to Amador right where he was. Because of that, one day, I’ll get to meet the man we prayed for on July 3, 2011…and Alan’s mom…and maybe the rest of the family!

God is SO good!

I have a past that I’m not proud of.

So did Rahab, but she’s in the lineage of Jesus Christ (check Matthew 1).

So did David, but he went down in history as “the man after God’s own heart.”

So did Paul the Apostle. He used to kill Christians. Then one day, he saw the resurrected Christ and things changed.

I stand with countless others who have a part of their past that they’re not proud of. For me, it’s pornography. I hate that it was such a big part of my life years ago. I hate the pain and the hurt it caused. I hate talking about it, really, but here I am, blogging about it for the world to read.

I talked in a previous blog about my past struggle with it and how I keep it in check today. I talked about a ministry called XXXChurch.com that’s specifically targeted at helping people overcome porn addiction. They’re a great example of a group of people, who, like me, have a past they’re not proud of, but are willing to talk about it to help others.

I was recently asked to begin blogging for a new branch of XXX Church called Heart Support. They deal with addiction in general: sex, money, food, cutting, etc. I’ll be blogging there once a month about my past with porn addiction and how I came out of it.

I know this is a touchy subject and one that no one really enjoys thinking about (me neither), but here’s the reality: it’s part of who I was. One of the biggest hindrances to me stopping my porn addiction was that I bought into the lie that I was the only one who struggled with it. Statistically, I was WAY off, but I had no idea. Because I thought I was the only one, I thought I had to fight it alone. That’s one reason why I love ministries like XXX Church and Heart Support. They’re not scared to speak up, say it how it is, and help people who think they have to fight it alone.

My first blog is now up at HeartSupport.com. It’s not graphic or anything, but let me just warn you: it may not be easy to read. It wasn’t easy for me to write. It’s called “I’m A Pastor and I use Porn.” Read it if you’d like. If you know of someone that it could be useful to, pass it along!

I pray God can use my past that I’m not proud of to help provide hope and healing for people hooked on porn.

What issue have you dealt with in your past that you can help others with now?

Do you believe God is big enough to use your mistakes for His glory? Whether you believe it or not, He is. I’m proof.